As a new mom, who is now one year in, I still don’t have it all together. Not even close. I’m pretty sure none of us do. Not all the time, at least. If we say we do… there’s a really good chance we’re lying.
I have four things to confess from this last year. My not-so-picture-worthy mom moments.
This “mommy confessional” was spurred by a comment from one of my good friends, Melissa, who became a mom four months before me. What she said reminded me that, although we try to represent our true selves on Facebook and other social media sites, there is always a difference between perception and reality. With this blog Edmomton, I sincerely want to be me — Rachel — and be honest. Authenticity is important, especially when it comes to motherhood.
So… you’re probably wondering what her comment was.
This past February, I drove from my place Downtown to her house in South Windermere. Our two babies were busy playing on the living room floor as Lulu (their new, loveable rescue pup) trotted happily back and forth between them. We sipped on some glorious coffee. I asked, “So how’s life been, momma?” As per the typical play date.
“I’m good. But honestly, some days I can barely make it out of bed in the morning. It’s been tough lately.
What about you? Looks like you have it all together, at least from all your updates I’ve seen on Facebook. You look like such a natural mom, you’re getting out and going to West Edmonton Mall with Alex, you’re having fun… I want to be more like that.”
I was seriously shocked to hear this from Melissa. Melissa. She was the new mama that had it all together… at least, that’s what I had assumed, based on her Facebook posts. Melissa was the mommy I wanted to be like.
She’d paved the proverbial baby trail and was a rockstar of a new mom. (And still is!) She is motivated, positive, smart, gorgeous, and essentially trains and inspires others for a living. She just completed training to become a Doula, a profession that suits her so well, and is almost done her certification.
Before Baby Adeline (Addie), Melissa was a fitness competitor. She started her own business as a personal trainer. She took me to my first pre-natal yoga class and reminded me that it was ok to take care of myself and not just focus on gathering baby gear. She had a full nursery set-up, with baby’s name in letters on the bedroom door, adorable matching furniture, pink sheets, and a huge, cushy rocking chair.
After Addie, she had baby sleep, pumping, bottle feeding, supplements, diapering, and teething all figured out. Her pictures and updates on Facebook were positive, exciting, and perfect. I did not think she had a hard time doing anything baby-related.
I took the opportunity to confess what life had really been like.
Confession 1: I was intimidated to take care of newborn Alex, and had a rough start to motherhood.
I thought Alex was beautiful… but also demanding. I felt like I was awake for the first three months of Alex’s life. Ok, so I’d never taken care of a newborn, but I didn’t realize just how exhausting and messy it really was. Someone should invent newborn boot camp.This was not the raw egg I so tenderly took care of in high school.
After my surprise home birth, I had also suffered a postpartum hemmorhage and had to get a blood transfusion. That physical set-back drained my energy and made adjusting to motherhood that much harder. I had a hard time being positive, seeing the happy side of things, and couldn’t relax or sleep well. My mother was my angel — she took all of her vacation time, came up to Edmonton, worked tirelessly to take care of Alex and me, changed diapers, made breakfast, lunch, and supper, bathed Alex, and kept me company while I complained and cried. She bought huge loads of healthy groceries. I felt useless for a good five weeks…
The breastfeeding was a constant, exhausting effort, day and night. I got used to it after a while. But I was surprised at the sheer amount of hours I would spent doing it. A true labor of love. The crying… well, anyone who has had a baby, no comment required.
Alex’s first bath was a slippery, wriggly, crying sort of fiasco. I was so terrified to hurt him, and luckily had my mom to help. I watched her carefully bath Alex in the kitchen sink and memorized each thing she did — from wiping his eyes, hair, hands, and bum.
I didn’t change any diapers for the first days, either. Those newborn diapers really gave me a run for my money. There was projectile poop at four in the morning, pee all over the wall behind our change table.
Lesson 1: I had it easy!
Sure, newborns are hard work. But I didn’t have twins, triplets, or a baby with any sort of health complication. My husband and I were lucky parents to have a baby with a working set of lungs (oh, did they ever work!), an efficient digestive system, and nothing wrong to mention. My boy didn’t have to have surgery. He wasn’t eating from a feeding tube. We were all doing well and, within a couple of months, I caught up on a bit of shut-eye.
Plus, how sweet was my little bug?
Confession 2: I had very high expectations of myself as a mom.
As a new mom, expecting perfection was dangerous territory.
I have a handful of examples. 1) Moms are encouraged to read to their babies, from day one. I would keep a huge stack of baby books on the bedside table and would read him 10, instead of a couple. 2) I would make myself busy when Alex was sleeping, instead of napping or stretching out in front of Netflix. 3) I always had my makeup and hair done before I had visitors or leave the house. 4) Alex always had a matching outfit on. 5) I didn’t want help and thought I was the only one who could do things “right” for him. 5) I would apologize when Alex cried in public, thinking it was something I did that caused his upset.
High expectations weren’t serving me well. I wasn’t resting. My rhythm was all off. I would get extremely anxious and nervous about everything, and would dread and fear when Alex would wake up from a nap. From books, routines, and always being presentable — it was too much.
Lesson 2: I didn’t have to try so hard.
I was an incredible mommy as long as Alex was fed, diapered, clothed, warm, and alive. Happy — that’s another thing. He’s not going to be happy all the time. In fact, he’s going to cry, a lot, and that’s natural. Keeping life simple would have been better. Minimizing things “to be done” would have been the most productive. I needed to let go, take a deep breath, slow my pace down during the hard times, and soak in the sweet moments when I had them.
Now, if Alex is upset or crying, and I’m getting anxious or overwhelmed, I put a huge smile on my face and breathe in deeply for 5 seconds and out for 7. I work hard at feeling good. I put on spunky new tunes and dance with baby, making him laugh. I plan a few healthy meals. I pick my favourite muffin recipe and always add gross amounts of chocolate chips. I enjoy a glass of wine. I blog. I move on with life.
Confession 3: I only share the “good” pictures on Facebook and Instagram.
For a few months after baby, I only posted pictures on Facebook that I thought I looked my best in. Most of the time, I was a hot mess. There is a big difference between what I looked like on a daily basis, versus what I uploaded to the internet for my friends, family, and acquaintances to see. If I knew I wanted to take a picture, I would blow-dry my hair and put on makeup. No exceptions. I’m not saying I don’t look good without makeup. What I mean is, I only share the pictures I think I look good in.
Exhibit A: Before and After makeup photos.
This first picture is a photo of me yesterday, before I put on makeup and straightened my hair. (… gulp…) The second picture was taken 20 minutes later, after light makeup application and using a hair straightener.
Which one do you think I’d post on Facebook?
Lesson 3: I am stunning, with or without makeup.
I’m beautiful, and I’m not afraid to “not look my best” now, because that’s life.
Over this past year of being a mom, I’ve perfected the messy bun, cut my makeup routine in half, and always take the time to take care of me. Alex has been a little teacher. He’s humbled me and taught me how to get creative. Need a full face of makeup? Distract baby in his chair on the bathroom floor. Need a shower? Get a chair, swing, blanket, baby nest, high chair, whatever — and plunk baby in the bathroom with you. Want to just live in your pyjamas or yoga pants for a day, or a few days? Do it! Wear the dirty clothes. Just change the underwear.
Confession 4: I compare myself to other new moms.
I tend to compare myself, my abilities, and my experiences with other new moms. I try to embrace a mommy mentality of learning but regularly think I’m not up to par.
Lesson 4: Every single new mom and baby is unique.
As said by Theodore Roosevelt:
Comparison is the thief of joy.
And it truly is. There is no one single right, correct way of doing things. If I start thinking “my mom friend did X, so I should be doing that, too…” or “her baby is sleeping so long, why is mine not sleeping, am I doing something wrong?…” I immediately stop. I’m only doing myself a disservice. I make a daily effort — yes, daily — to remember that I’m an incredible new mom.
And guess what, so are you!